7 Ways to Stop Food Guilt

Everybody eats.

Life is hard enough without judging every little thing you put in your mouth. It’s a double whammy when you judge other people for what they eat because then you feel guilty about that, too. Food guilt shows up as a way to police our own (and others’) eating behavior. We believe that if we make the price of breaking a food rule so painful, we’ll be less likely to eat the thing in the first place.

It should be no surprise that the threat of guilt usually doesn’t prevent us from going out of bounds with food. Inevitably, we end up carrying extra guilt just for doing the thing that everyone else does: eating. Perhaps seeing food guilt for what it really is, a strategy to keep our behavior in check, would make the situation a lot more clear. This simple shift in perspective turns our attention inward, rather than it being directed at food as a proxy for our feared sense of lack of control. It isn’t really the food we’re avoiding, it’s the horrible feelings of guilt that come with it.

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“Your Body Can’t Tell Time!” and Other Non-Diet Nonsense

Human nutrition is fascinating and complex making it hard to distill into easily assimilated absolutes. Although well-intended, non-diet messaging is often reduced to cute, disarming phrases that amount to little more than platitudes aimed at calming fear and cognitive unease. Moreover, rather than offering a path to the truth, these phrases appeal to a dieter’s binary, or black-and-white, thinking and do little to challenge their real concerns and misperceptions of reality.

For example, imagine you’re going through a tough time and someone tells you, “Such is life,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Is that actually helpful? Or is it just putting a little temporary salve on the wound? Without a truly wise and empathetic follow-up, such trite expressions fall flat and can even make us feel worse.

The same goes with phrases like “Your body can’t tell time.” The anxious eater desperately wants to put it in a box by asking, “So, can our body tell time or not? It’s one or the other.” Actually, it’s far more nuanced than that.

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Be with yourself in stillness

You don’t have to meditate, but it helps.

The journey to stillness is different for all of us. I’m willing to bet that you can recall at least one time when your mind was quiet, even for a few moments, and you felt some peace and ease.

It’s true, stillness does happen spontaneously sometimes. What a relief to be unburdened from all the mind’s chatter, even if only momentarily. Maybe the stillness comes while you are being creative or making something. Maybe it’s while you are out in nature, entranced by the wonder of it all. It can happen while swimming, or dancing, or running, or listening to particular music. It can happen when connecting with someone dear to us.

These tastes of stillness let us know that a state of profound quietude is possible. It just takes some training of both mind and body to figure out how to get there on purpose. And once you are there, all there is to do is give yourself your undivided attention, with curiosity and interest, in a kind and affectionate way.

Both mindfulness and self-compassion training, as well as other forms of contemplative practice, provide a roadmap to stillness as outlined by what has worked for others in the past. It all starts with a willingness and the intention to be fully with yourself to see what’s there and what unfolds without escaping and without judging.

It’s all about learning to stay.

Because you, just like every other living being, are worthy of love and attention, especially your own.

Akrasia and the Divided Will

It’s hard to always do the right thing. Even when we know the thing is a bad idea, sometimes the pull to do it anyway, to be bad, is just too strong.

Think of a time when you planned on doing something you knew would be good for you, like get to bed on time. Yet there you are watching just one more episode of Queer Eye, well past midnight.

It’s easy to be hard on ourselves in those moments. It’s as if the proverbial angel and devil have appeared on our shoulders — and the devil has won.

Maybe we fall into the thought trap, “I must not be trying hard enough,” or “I must not want it badly enough.” We even worry that others see our struggles as a sign of weak character and bad judgment.

So, what’s going on here? Why do we so often do things against our own best interest? And why do we see it as a moral failure?

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Intuitive Eating: What It Is and What It Isn’t

A quick google search produces hundreds of results related to “intuitive eating,” the 10 principles, some how-tos, and success stories. As important as these points are in understanding the mechanics of this food philosophy, they don’t always give a felt sense of what it’s like to eat in a natural way.

In the simplest terms, intuitive eating means using your body’s feedback to guide your eating decisions. It’s something that happens, not something you control. It’s instinctual, ancient, and primal, yet highly sophisticated in its balance of hormone-driven cues and pleasure-driven rewards. It is basic human physiology in collaboration with both the rational and emotional minds.

Yes, it’s the name of an awesome book and proven system to help people get off the diet train, but intuitive eating is something deeper, something truly valuable. Once you get it back, you don’t ever want to give it up again. You will protect it at all costs.

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Three Reasons Women Who are Done with Dieting Struggle with Mindful Eating

It’s easy to get frustrated with all the conflicting weight loss advice. And even more confusing to sort through the information on how to stop dieting. Methods like intuitive and mindful eating sound great initially, but for some, it’s just as hard to continue those habits as it is to stay on a diet. Even research tells us that one of the biggest reasons diets don’t always work is that they are all but impossible to stick with (file that under obvious, right?).

Most diets are not meant to be permanent lifestyle changes. You do it for ten days, maybe 30, and eventually go back to normal eating. For most people, if the food restrictions go on for too long, any weight lost comes with a heavy price. With each new food restriction comes a barrier to freedom and missed opportunities to connect with others. Once these secondary consequences start to affect your well-being, the diet is now a big problem. Click here for a post on how to start the process.

By the same token, if new habits from mindful eating do not weave themselves into your lifestyle, you may come up empty on that count, too. When it feels like a chore or another thing you have to do, it’s really hard to stick with it. But just like with food, it’s the general approach to mindful eating that makes all the difference.

Why the struggle?

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